Wednesday morning as I entered the office Veronica in reception greeted me
- Hi, James. Nice to see you dressed properly again.
I hated it. Just because I decided to joke the Friday before and come dressed in a skirt, a nice blouse that just barely showed the bra under it, pantyhose and shoes with a bit of a heel my life was utterly and completely destroyed. My girlfriend and I had thought it would be hilarious and she had helped me to put on some make-up. Nothing over the top. Just some nice make-up that actually made my 25 year old but unfortunately rather babyish face a bit more mature.
At first everything went according to plan. The other engineers got the joke and had fun comparing my outfit with the usual “dress code” at the design office, i.e. jeans, baggy college shirts and such. Actually I was the only one in a skirt. Not that there were many females among us but anyway. I also got compliments from other people that I met while going from one place another. In one morning I had become modestly famous in the company. Then things started to go wrong, terribly, horribly wrong.
At lunchtime Mike, the project manager for the project I was working in, got a heart attack. Fortunately they managed to get him to hospital quickly and he survived. However, he was supposed to do to the presentation for the potential customer that afternoon. The project was huge and this was the last meeting before the customer finally decided to go ahead or not.
All the other sub-project managers were away for some reason or other. There was only I. Yes, I was a sub-project manager but decidedly junior. I had a grand total of 5 days in that position. Despite this I was told to do the presentation. There was no one else. Fortunately Mike had done a dry-run in front of the sub-project managers the day before so the presentation was ready and I was familiar with it but how to manage all the unavoidable questions? I was so caught up in all this that I had completely forgotten how I was dressed.
It was only when I saw the reaction of everyone when I entered the room that I remembered how I was dressed. Clothes never had been an issue for me since I never mingled with the Suits. This order was crucial for the company and I could see that our CEO, who I’d never met before, was not amused. I really don’t remember that much from the meeting. I remember fielding a number of questions. Actually quite good questions. Mostly I explained why it would be impossible or very costly to do what they asked. Once or twice I offered an unconventional alternative. Those alternative solutions had usually been discussed within the project but discarded exactly because they were untested even if most likely viable. Mike was the kind of guy that did everything by the book. Since I was toast anyway I also slipped in an idea of my own that I firmly believed in but Mike had discarded without really considering. So now I had made certain that if I wasn’t fired by the upper management for turning up in a skirt and wearing make-up then Mike would kick me out.
I made my escape and left for home as quickly as I could.
Monday was terrible. Everyone looked at me in a peculiar way. In many faces I thought I could read “disappointment”, especially among the females, in others “schadenfreude”. After lunch something happened. Rumors started floating around, not that anyone told ME anything. The faces of some of my fellow engineers started to become tinged with “hatred”. I must have really screwed up. I didn’t mean to. Honestly, I did my best. For God’s sake it was only meant as a joke. I had no idea I would be thrust into that meeting! Now everything was lost. All for one silly joke.
Tuesday morning Veronica once more looked at me disapprovingly and asked why I didn’t dress the way I knew I should. When I got to my desk I was told that the CEO wanted to see me ASAP.
My meeting with the CEO completely destroyed my life. I was a good engineer. Yes, I like solutions that are a bit daring but I'm not reckless. I want to design things. Find solutions to difficult problems. All my plans were in ruins now. All for one silly joke!
Wednesday morning again.
As I walked down the corridor I got compliments on how I was dressed.
- Love that suit James.
- Lovely suit James. It really becomes you
- James, you look scrumptious today. Much better than those tatty jeans your wore yesterday.
That last from the CEO’s secretary, a really silly girl.
Yes, I had become a “Suit” a being that I’d always regarded with contempt. “Chief Customer Liaison for Project Theta”. Also “Executive Assistant Project Manager”. Just the titles themselves should be grounds for capital punishment! As the CEO had apologetically explained I was a bit inexperienced to be the Project Manager just yet so he had put old, experienced and soon to be retired Steve McMurdo in that position to help me grow into the job. Mike had decided to retire after his heart-attack. No wonder my peers hated my guts. No sensible manager “promotes” someone this way. Oh, the customers had just loved me! Just when they had written off our company as too old-fashioned and set in its ways I had appeared. Unconventional, smart, undaunted by titles and positions, unpretentious, cute! And pitching good ideas to boot! Yes, they wanted the project as modified by me but most of all they wanted ME! Hence the ridiculous situation I was in now. All for one silly joke!
Walking down the corridor you could hear the clicking of my heels which made me wonder why my CEO had insisted that I wear a skirt suit and high heels for the meeting with the customers this morning. No, I didn’t buy his explanation that the very high heels would keep me on my toes. If the customers liked unconventional why wear a classic skirt business suit? Not that I didn’t like it. It accentuated my narrow waist and the reaction from people I met was that I have a really spectacular pair of legs. But it’s CONVENTIONAL!
Maybe I should burn my bra?
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